Chiang Mai chokes as fires rage in the north of Thailand

By: Greeley Pulitzer |


Northern Thailand is choking under a toxic shroud and it’s not getting any better. Air pollution across the upper North remains “at critical levels,” in many areas, including some of the main population centres. Authorities are monitoring almost 400 active hotspots in Chiang Mai alone yesterday.

The air quality didn’t improve this morning, with IQAir recording “very unhealthy” air quality and hazardous PM2.5 dust levels at around 200 in parts of Chiang Mai and up to 270 around Chiang Rai today (below).

Thailand’s official safe level is 50: the World Health Organisation sets it at 25. Though it’s improved somewhat during the day, Chiang Mai once again rated world’s worst for air quality.

According a 2019 report, PM2.5 caused 23,800 premature deaths in Thailand in 2017.

Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat says fires have definitely affected air quality, with 17 provinces in the North reporting an increase in levels of PM2.5 pollutants yesterday. Only two, Nakhon Sawan and Uthai Thani in the north-east reported PM2.5 readings below the Pollution Control Department’s “safe” threshold.

Chiang Dao district in Chiang Mai reported the highest PM2.5 reading in the North yesterday at 360.

Narumon says the worsening pollution is due to a combination of factors which include arson, drought and wind patterns which trap pollutants right over Thailand. Others say agribusiness, with its annual plantation field burnings, continues to exacerbate the problem.

According to satellite data, on Saturday there were 3,809 hotspots in Thailand, 5,061 in Laos and 10,061 in Myanmar. As of yesterday, 398 hotspots, nearly 10% of the country’s total, were found in Chiang Mai.

Most of the blazes were related to a continuing bushfire in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, which suddenly raged out of control late on Saturday after burning for about a week.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post